Black Unicorn

black-unicorn

[description: image of a black unicorn lying on the concrete]

Our-storically gender non conformists, Trans womn/femmes of color, 2spirit peoples,

are murdered and policed by the same white supremacy and Statist prelogics that have granted the rest of you,

subjected to police brutality & white domination,

your place in a 2 tiered gender genre huMANity cake.

Given to you by the crumb and spillage,

but not entirely really yours to truly lay claim to.

Digested improperly with devastating side affects that binary you with aches of Entitlements or Subordination.

Just because you don’t hear of our deaths as often doesn’t remove the impact of our genocide.

That very little has been done to honor these rare positions that we hold.

When you let the western world tarnish what your ancestors held as sacred and necessary, namely us,

you do yourself an injustice.

When you let the dogma of the west design to demonize our & your worth,

you are letting them slash at our forgotten name’s and most inciteful insightful spiritual conduits.

Our deaths may not be “often”,

the violence endured may not be visibly “seen” enough to evoke mass mobilization,

but how rarely do you even see a Black Unicorn?

So why wouldn’t you believe her when she screams,

“Like you, I am endangered!!”?

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don’t let them coopt us!!

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Here is a written piece for a panel I did for this year’s Black August Month event and screening of the documentary film ‘Jackson: Not Just A Name’. Event organized by the Black August Committee in Los Angeles. Much appreciation to everyone in the space for including me in on this panel and giving space to acknowledge queer trans gender non conforming Two Spirit struggle for Autonomy.

Hi my name is edxi betts. My gender and political pronouns are they/them/their. For folx unfamiliar with such pronouns IT IS NOT grammatically incorrect. It is a demand for recognition, not by the State, but by you, of all of my socially constructed intersecting identities. So you’re going to acknowledge me as such. My gender is not, will  not, ever be recognized under colonization. What colonialism has done to Two Spirit, trans, gender non conforming, and queer identifying/ positioned folx is continuously erase us from it’s pages of His-story as well as from our own ancestral cultural understandings and necessary positions in our communities pre-colonization or pre- white wealthy man’s governance.

To the youth or others unfamiliar with colonialism I just urge you to critically think and always ask questions about complete trust in any and all Authority that goes unquestioned (or unchallenged). Question why you are being fed the lie of love and allegiance to a KKKountry that has stolen land from its original people and has stolen Afrikan people from our homelands and subjected our ancestors and us to continual exploitation and absence from the selective compassion of western civility’s huMANity. What colonialism and its prelogics have done has pervasively and effectively demonized most of all things that we as non settlers and people of color once held as sacred, as revered, or as a necessary component to our communities before colonial contact.

So I want to highlight what it means for this government and those whom collude with its underlying prelogics to continually erase(genocide) a particular social category and struggle of people that has ourstorically always been here. This shit aint new. I’m not new. We didnt just get here! Not all people who struggle are marginalized in the same ways. There’s race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, size and citizenship that comes into play and inform our experiences.

How I think we can unify under social political differences are to acknowledge our common enemy. Who are the root causes of our enemy? The State and the Government. For Black folx it is the State that is our common enemy because of slavery. For Indigenous folx (of this land) it is the State and the Government that is our common enemy because of genocide and erasure. And for queer, trans, gnc, two spirits people as well the State is our common enemy because it is a force and apparatus that continuously threaten our gender/sexual/spiritual autonomy and our self determination.

Currently the State is doing all it can to buy us, to recognize us. This is a cooptation/ coercive assimilation into oppressive money making institutions like Marriage or the Military. To use us as bodies to justify, legitimize and strengthen State power(hegemony). So the question I often pose to queer trans or two spirit identifying folx is, What is the point of inclusion and demand for equality when the Colonial power stays the same? And my final question to everyone else is are the norms and genders and its roles the state has taught you more important than our collective struggle for liberation?

 

 

Honoring Cusp trapQueens: Opposing Harm: An Open Letter To Those Who Benefit From ‘Masculinity’ and Hierarchy

Dear Beneficiaries,

I’m like, “hey whatsup, what’s good???”

  There’s been quite a lot of talk regarding how to handle the harm that may be reproduced in spaces we’re trying to carve out for ourselves. Recently at the Creating Change conference I took part in supporting the direct actions of Black Trans womn whom organized a shutting down of a “Trans Attracted Men’s” panel discussion that harbored a known abuser amongst the black trans community. Some organizers of the panel were informed, but failed to recognize the issue in uplifting a cis hetero man whom had been known to harm multiple Black Trans Womn. This was not to refute the possibility of accountability and transformation upon cis men in general whom perpetuate harm, but to stand in joint struggle with the most vulnerable of us, those who face abuse often and directly; to highlight those kinds of restorative efforts being completely ignored or trivialized. Not only due to rape culture, but the liberal apologism that tends to try and bury these problems until they become something bigger and less easy to ignore. Apologism being a way of thinking that blames survivors/victims, excuses harm done, and or down plays experiences of abuse.

Countless times I’ve seen popular or reputable organizers/activists use their social capital(popularity) and or

legitimacy within certain institutions or amongst these mentioned apologists to absolve themselves from taking accountability. This has dimmed the hope of and pushed out many aspiring wide eyed people, particularly, but not limited to the Femme of us. I believe that self [en]titled leaders who may not have the firmest grasp of their own harmful underpinning colonial logics and hierarchical organizing relations are the one’s whom tend to

replicate this kind of abuse, or worse, organize these ways to allot special positioning and titles to folx

they inspire(or empower) in order to gate keep for their own individual power. This is not actually empowerment. Cause who’s gonna wanna ‘call in or out’ a charismatic, self proclaimed leader that may remove their faith in you or threaten to take away a given position within important movement work? Or uses the culture of apologism surrounding their reputation as a way to not be responsible for all that they do? But even when it isnt a self affirmed leader there is an age old danger that comes from an authoratitve figure representing you, your interests, determination and your needs. This Cult-of-Persona Politics is not new. Look at every politician turned dictator or leader of rights movements and unrest; from the Black Power Movement to Civil Rights Movement to American Indian Movements, mostly men known for their womnizing or harm caused and excused widely to make room for “the movement building work.” Casting out those who do dissent to this microcasm of tyranny as diruptors of unity.  Most people are already socialized within the prelogics and frameworks of the State and these complimentary social hierarchies(race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, nationality) it is sustained by. Since it is so pervasive many might not acknowledge their complicity to such dominating dynamics. I ask for us ALL to challenge and be critical of these frameworks of thinking. Or to at least interrogate them as we re-imagine future transformation of our society.

The focus shouldn’t be primarily on men, but the glorification of masculinity. Masculinity that defines itself in our society by violence. This violent learning and knowing is not separate from the coercion or threat of violence historically used and monopolized by the State Appartus.

I’ve started to become careful of using words like “privilege” because it does very little to strike chords in

people in positions of power. And it’s always rendered as a sort of social benefit, when it isnt a social benefit so much as it is oppressive. So now I attempt to decenter Whiteness, Masculinity, Normativity to name what is colluding with the  interlocking systems of domination responsible for sets of positionality. So much of what plagues our femininity and communities are Fuckboiboys not recognizing how their masculine energy is just mirroring the same treatment we get in these white, bourgee, cismalecentric spaces.

I recently created a brief response to a relatively well known Black Masculine of Center DFAB(Designated Female At Birth) persyn regarding their treatment of femmes, particularly black femmes, in Los Angeles movement spaces and the harm they’ve caused in their romantic polyamorous relationships. I’m publicizing this without mention of their name(unless there is continued inaction) to acknowledge their lack of accountability when it comes to their harm and the work femmes of color seem to always have to be doing to emotionally deal and survive the harm that is still rampant in our communities. The same work that often tends to fetishize us in the eyes of Masculine of Center people! This published letter is also to light the fire under the asses of those currently engaged in “polyamorous relations” whom seem to be ignoring their own internalized misogynoir and femmephobia. Cause I’ve written too many letters or responses like these to the men or MoCs and apologists alike who produce oppressive dynamics in QTPoC spaces. To me if you aint holding our femininity as sacred then you’re just doing as dominant white culture does and commodifying it for persynal gain. And if you’re still not directly acknowledging the harm you have caused it will happen again in your current and future relationships.

My response reads:

“There’s a lot of shit goin down in many interpersynal dynamics right now. I guess there’s

disappointment in very many masculine of center and man identifying folx. I dont know if you’re new to

the game regarding dating multiple femmes, but there’s a way you can go about it and not hurt many

of their feelings or pit them against one another for your attention.

As someone who dabbles in revolutionary ways of relating to one another, I think that these

relationships need to reflect what we wanna see in the world. So if a man or masculine of center

persyn is in relationships with femmes or womn, it’s important that they not replicate what society and

it’s patriarchy socializes us to do. It’s important that masc folx actually learn to listen and hear more

because so much socializes y’all to speak and tell or take up space. I’m not expecting you or other

masc folx to be door mats, but I am asking that you dissent against a world that socializes every one to

meet the needs of men and their masculinity.

It just takes braver conversations and actively deconstructing our egos to make sure eachother’s

needs are met. Cause when I see people, mainly men, and masculine of center folx taking advantage

of how womn/femmes are socialized to serve their needs(whether these womn and femmes are

conscious or unconscious of these dynamics) those MoCs look like people I don’t wanna call

comrades in this fight to change the world. Then you just become a persyn who’s taking advantage of

womn and femme’s internalized oppression. I’m not here for that. Femmes go through too much to be

treated how they are regularly treated.

So in our ‘movement spaces’ it should be different or at least changing. I hope that’s not too long

winded. I don’t, like, hate you. I’m just consistently let down these days by not only men, but also non-

femmes. I think what would be helpful is owning up to any harm done by listening and acknowledging harmful or problematic behavior and then asking folx what they would like to see from you in the future.”

*I PUBLISH THIS IN RESPONSE TO INACTION*

What would it mean to be individually and collectively committed to community accountability for

already targeted and vulnerable people? In our movement spaces and in the neighborhoods we’re

living in… The apartment buildings we hear domestic disputes in… This is what many of us mean when

we talk about future worlds of possibility without the necessity of the police or other equally oppressive sectors of the State. Not as if police have ever served anything other than the exploitation of black or brown communities and ongoing colonial or capitalist rule, but to take into account the constructed poverty we’re often living under that coerces us to commit harm on one another from learned patterns of behavior and circumstances. I am not in the habit of reacting “civil” to forced interactions with oppressive institutions and individuals, but these individuals can still reclaim their consent and unlearn the things that systemically attempt to erase their autonomy to collectively combat the violent logics of this Nation State.

I think and hope that we can do better. Please stop posturing online like you’re ridin’ and dyin’ for cis, trans, or GNC femmes when you know you NOT! Its actually psychically and spiritually harmful to those of us who know you’re not.  Remove the heavy tough cloak of intended deflective posturing or intracommunal ally theatrics, CHECK THE EGO, and own up to the harm that still tears our communities apart. Be more thoughtful of what we’re going through daily. And finally be as present for Femmes of Color as we have to be for each other cause of societal fuckshiterry that you gain from. Please consider this unpaid femme labor as a gift and not an attack. It’s not persynal, its actually systemic.

Sincerely,

A Saltie Black Femme

Dear Edxie: Don’t Forget

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Dear Edxie,

It’s been a while since our last check in. I just want to let you know that I recognize the work that you don’t. I will always see you. I will always love the parts of you that are made most visible. You are deserving of love because you are deserving of my unconditional love. Do not doubt the love I have for you. Do not give up on me. I will do all I can to uplift your spirits and will negate anyone that places doubt in your capacity to be all of you.

Your best qualities are the ones you’ve earned from hurt and pain. But you are not wholly only pain and hurt. You are worth so much more than that. I appreciate your lived empathy for others. That sensitivity is valuable in helping to uplift others who may be in your position or who may share similar conditions. Do not lose these parts.

So whenever there is that doubt cause it may come. Whenever you say “I can’t” cause you probably will. Whenever the entire world seems to not understand or accept you, whenever power plays of this social war of ideas, war of positions, hits you on your worst day. I will love you, I will know you, I will hold you, I will tell you, “you can”. I will help you up when you fall because you are edxie.

Who Do You Honor?

I think I first started feeling  dysphoria regarding my gender when I was very young. Mostly because of boys. they would insist I was a girl. Sometimes they’d give me a cookie or candie if I just admitted it. If I’d only just admit that then maybe it could lay dangerous curiousities to rest.

A girl I, and many of the boys in my 3rd grade class, liked once asked a group of these boys courting her, if she was prettier than me . That question continues to ring in my head as I get side eyed from some cisgendered womn as though my existence, our existence is to appeal to the masculine gaze.  Before I could even assert that  I ever was gender non conforming it was almost as if people could sense it. In how I moved, how I breathed. I’ve come to accept the feminine qualities of my gender, but I grow terrified of my masculine parts. Because, I never wanted to be a father, a brother an uncle. Cause masculinity in our society is defined by violence, by taking up space, by thoughtlessness, I’ve done all I can in my power to honor  femininity.  The ways that many men and other masculine of center peoples  often don’t.

Caged & Staged

Blackness is  as inherently gender non conforming

as it is sacred.

Depictions of gender non conformity that transgress

are being slowly picked apart by sharp talon like hands.

Dark hands  black hands,

that pull apart this deep power,

this blackness.

But black hands that are just the hue of the gloves of whiteness

and it’s colonizatIon.

We choose not to see the roots of such a domination that steals our power.

It molds the spirit and keeps us from burning.

Our burning  for something  better,

greater than the conditions that act as a container to our unknown potential and freedoms.

Memoirs Of An Anomoly

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Article originally published in LAQR Issue 2, 2012  some revions made.

  The life of a gender non conformist is an intriguing struggle indeed. It is a lonely and dangerous tightrope walk towards social equality. Though I’ve personally had the privilege of being comfortable with the body and genitalia I was born with, I have little in common with the homo-normative cisgendered and similar commonalities with the transgendered. Blurring the lines of the gender binary and playing with those traditional dynamics have been met with threats of violence, genuine admiration, and painful loneliness.  Here are some personal reflections of my life, as such.

When I was younger I quickly understood that under the veil of all things biological and superficial, the surface of things matter so much to most everyone else that the marionette of the social order can be pulled, tampered with, and cut. I observed that girls in elementary school would often get trinkets and candies from boys who sought them to be the proverbial objects of their affection. So the more feminine(only in attitude) I would present myself to the other young gender conforming boys, the more I would receive from them while flirting with this demeanor. These experiments with gender dynamics got me good treatment, protection, some light ridicule, and many material rewards of affection in elementary school. Most were positives I wanted as a child, but as I grew older and developed more sensitivities and empathy, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to be treated as a man or even a womyn. Even though I identified as male I wanted to be treated as a person, no marionette attached, regardless of my perceived gender or sexual orientation. 

High school was met with varied reactions to my gender nonconformity. Some positive, some negative. Some understood, some hated. Some stalked, some wanted to kill me, and one expressed both in tandem.  I can truthfully say that I do not know how much of how I was treated had to do with what I looked like. I’m certain of the controversy; I’ve always been an androgynous individual in physicality and in spirit, since very young. Sure, my physical attributes contributed to how I was treated and perceived, that’s a given for everyone, but that also took clout over my observations and inclinations despite my interests in things that deviated from the social gender norm.

 I felt uncomfortable as a youth, as most youths do. Teachers or students I didn’t know too well would call me improper pronouns whether intentional or accidental.  I would especially feel pressure and feared violence in boy’s locker room situations because of the glares I would get, glares of surprise from students that my genitalia matched their own. Of course I was given nicknames like Catwoman in elementary or Mermaid in high school swim class. Partly, I felt, because of efforts towards belittling me and partly because they felt this anomaly deviating from a regular gendered spectrum was worth drawing some attention to.

I have always shared a sisterly camaraderie with womyn growing up. They never saw me as a drooling threat to their comfort or interest to their own attraction. I valued this. Difficulty prevailed when I would find certain womyn attractive. I’ve always felt I would lose that trust or camaraderie if I expressed any attraction, as unfair as that was to me. I never wanted to perpetuate that uncomfortability that men are known for. Since the gender queer would rather not be seen as any one particular gender in accordance to popular norm, and since I don’t want my sexual orientation to lead the narrative of who I am or who I’m perceived to be, it is a constant struggle to truly be seen and heard. 

I’d say that I am often inadvertently hit on by people who don’t really know why they’re attracted to me or why they’re hitting on me. Its interesting witnessing people do this, and stop midway what they’re doing because they deem it inappropriate themselves.  For example if it’s a self identified cis straight man he’ll retract and say he means what he said and did in the most heterosexual of ways, EVAR. Attraction is a very profound thing. I often find that the men who are attracted to me aren’t attracted to the cishetero standard masculinity that many gay men are usually presented with and attracted to, but instead are attracted to the supposed “opposing” feminine qualities. It is my observation that when straight men see other “men’ or gender non conformists with those feminine features it can be unnerving and confusing for them. These feelings are real and valid, and it is not up to that individual that you may have confusing feelings for to appease you. This applies to everyone.  We are humyn.  Accept these feelings. Talk about them, but do not let your urges or feelings get in the way of mutual consent! 

There’s a lot of social pressure on the self identified straight man, less than the LGBT or gender non conforming communities, of course. But anything that differs from the rules of the norm are not allowed in the self identified straight male social perspective, especially when their side often qualifies as Questioning. This is hetero supremacy that can lead men and womyn to be ostracized by their seemingly 100% straight male and female counterparts. So, no, I don’t expect the questioning, self identified straight man, who may be attracted to me to tell me with his words how he’s feeling and why. Instead, he might go through the complicated and even inadvertent steps of showing me with his not so furtive glances and treating me like he would any other womyn he’s covertly attracted to, WITH PATRIARCHAL VALOR AND CHIVALRY. There are even labels for men and womyn who are attracted to any and all feminine qualities, or any and all masculine qualities,  in any given individual regardless of gender, some  of which are called Hypersexuality, Androsexuality, or Gynesexuality. Being attracted to roles, attributes, behaviors, and trans individuals that follow these traits is common, but this frame work of attraction still permeates and conforms to the preconceived standards of what is masculinity/femininity and how these qualities are defined through the biases and authorship of patriarchy. See more Terminology

These issues are even more prevalent in “movement spaces” or activist circles, where privileges should be checked and balanced. I was recently abruptly asked by a half drunken hetero sexual white male comrade when out on a sleep-in action,

“Why do you make me uncomfortable?…”

My response was,

“…I’m not the one who knows the answer to that question.  So? Why do I make you feel uncomfortable?”

He brushed my response off as irrelevant and that the question had no real meaning. I just didn’t realize that the role for me and everyone around him as activists/organizers was to make him specifically feel comfortable. Because I look, act, and dress like me, and it confuses his male ego, that’s my issue? Unacceptable aaand fuck that! Sure he was tipsy, but let us get back to why questions like HIS make ME feel uncomfortable because usually in circumstances like these, where the confused and socially protected straight man is doing the inquiring and expressing his “uncomfortability” to an individual like me, it doesn’t usually end well for people who share my propensities. What a blatant disregard for my struggle and his own privileges! It is ALWAYS up to you, the individual, to ask yourself, why you’re attracted to someone and anyone. And maybe why YOU are attracted to someone who is seemingly the same “sex”, femmier or more masculine gender and not blame them for that or project your insecurities out on them. Break down why you are attracted to some physical attributes and not others because those same rules of attraction, the standards conceived in your head(mostly created by social constructs anyway), apply to every  androgynous or gender non conforming or trans individual as well. Yeah, you can argue that certain genitalia are a deal breaker, but are these requisites all qualities you yourself came up with? And how much of THAT is influenced by societal pressures vs. the pleasure principle(fetishization) vs. actual experiences? Sexuality is not so easily black and white.

As a gender non conforming, graysexual, person of color, humyn meatbag, aka queer for short, I’ve found it impossible to disregard and ignore the dangers of being who I am and easy to depersonalize and remove myself from being on the defense in terms of my privileges or position in society. Prime examples, like in the last paragraph, of men not recognizing why the vast majority of cisgendered men make me feel uncomfortable is indicative of the trivialization of the threat of gender violence and harassment. I find that my insecurities reflect those who are most marginalized by escalating rape culture. For instance, while waiting at a bus stop at night or walking through the unlit streets of Los Angeles alone, I’ll admittedly make efforts to seem less “feminine” or less “desirable”. I will go as far as hiding my hair or covering the majority of my head and face with a hood, watching every single shadow, prepping for assault by holding onto a defensive tool in my bag, even going as far as changing my stride or saunter to match that of a more aggressive or confident male, because the risk of being perceived as a womyn or even feminine places my safety at risk. This femmephobia is then internalized. These are issues LGBT people & womyn will face and calculate on the day to day. This is why we talk so much about privilege and patriarchy because we do not have the privilege to safely roam our streets at any given time. It is the sickness in society that expresses that the cause of sexual assault is often the result of a person’s appearance.

In another of many instances, years ago, I was approached by a male in his car around 3am while waiting at a bus stop after work. I was knowledgeable of the fact that his car slowly passed by once before and driving past again he proceeded to ask me the standard pickup questions men cruising the streets at 3am ask,

“Uhhh… Dyou know where Blank street is?”(The actual street was straight ahead, roughly 8 blocks away, I knew this)

I answered,

“No.”

He then asked,

“Do you need a ride or dyou want some company?”

As I slowly gripped the defensive tool hidden in my bag, I replied with,

“No thanks, I’m saving myself for when I get raped.” (Quoting a movie where the womyn saying this proceeded to murder her potential assailants)

Shocked at my response, he sped away in what seemed to have been disappointment in my assertion. This wasn’t an appropriate response. Looking back, it was an extremely insensitive one.  But in the heat it was just a reactive reflection of my darkened attempt at humoring myself in a potentially dangerous situation. Cat calling, pick up offers, and other variations of street harassment are not new to me or any other person that doesn’t outwardly portray or conform to the hetero male gendered persuasion. This man’s covert advances are reflective of  some of the only ways cis hetero men will express their attraction to trans feminine people. Which doesnt help how society overly objectifies our bodies because of the public shame that may come with this attraction, enabling a need for secrecy, mistreatment, abuse, and or low key sexual transaction.

Ahh, then there’s the loneliness. It is nothing new to anyone in this struggle. As far as struggles go there is an unsung pain that resonates in those who are born to resist normalcy. There’s the chokehold on your very existence and how you are not free to be. I often feel like I’m drowning in this sewage of assumptions, ignorance, hetero- AND even homo-normativity. Even within some LGBT communities it is hard to be accepted when it is so very influenced by social stigma that the pressures to assimilate into certain less orthodox cultures are even greater. It says conform to something because even the most marginalized are guilty of shunning those not ascribing to their obscure social dogma. Are you or aren’t you? In? Or out? Boy? Or girl? Are always the questions. So to address those in struggles like mine, or who understand how difficult it is to be hated for such great traits, I assure you, you are not alone, in this. Even though he or she won’t tell you how they romantically or sexually feel for fear of being ostracized themselves, you are not alone in this. Even when every individual around you is berating you for who you are, you are not alone in this. There are those who have been and will always be in solidarity with you and will fight alongside with you as we rage against disenfranchisement and strive for our voices to be heard under such oppression.

This critical consciousness is inherent in all of us. I and many like me are the anomaly in the gender matrix that calls out social norms as constructs that can be questioned, ignored, and deleted for liberation. This has the ability to provide cognitive dissonance within those who follow and propagate patriarchy blindly. We spit in the face of indoctrination. In terms of resistance, the gender non conformists take on a role of not adhering to their provided social framework of gender as it is, and to resist being compelled by conformity as the only liberating option for all people. Will I follow the existing long lived preset roles of gender and veer away from true liberty by way of coercion conformity, falling into despair? Or will I resist? We agree on resistance because this rebellion is paramount to our very existence. You are worth it. I am worth it. Resist to exist.